Lynda Kay Parker and Danny B. Harvey are the component parts of the quirky country duo Lonesome Spurs. Though both are native Texans, they're based in the countryside north of Los Angeles. Self-described as the “White Stripes of country,” the pair's debut CD, Lonesome Spurs (Cleopatra Records, 2006), shows off the retro sound they call “honky-tonk garage.” Their music is centered around the vocal stylings of Parker — who doubles on rhythm guitar and a bass drum made from a suitcase — and the twangy Tele playing of Harvey.
Parker and Harvey in the studio.
Harvey produced the disc in his basement studio. He had previously produced two psychobilly bands — 13 Cats and the Head Cat (both featuring Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister and the Stray Cats' Slim Jim Phantom) — and rockabilly godmother Wanda Jackson.
“We do all the recording, mastering, and artwork ourselves,” says Harvey. “The recording process, which took three weeks, was done the way most rock records have been recorded since the '60s: we do the basic tracks live, and then replace the instruments that have to be fixed.”
The Spurs record through a MOTU 2408mkII and a Digidesign Mbox into a 2 GHz dual-processor Apple Power Mac G5 into MOTU Digital Performer software, and monitor with KRK 6000 close-fields. “We never use more than eight inputs at a time,” Harvey says, “and we monitor the output in stereo, so the recording process is pretty streamlined.”
To get his twangy tone, Harvey plugs his James Trussart Steelcaster (or a Fender Telecaster Custom or a Gibson ES335) into either a Fender Hot Rod Deville 2 × 12 combo, a Music Man HD-130 head with a 2 × 12 open-backed cabinet, or a Vox ToneLab modeling processor. The amps are placed in the bathroom off of the garage and miked with a Shure SM57 or SM58.
Parker's suitcase bass drum is a vintage Samsonite, rigged up with a Duallist kick drum pedal that operates alternating beaters. It's miked with an AKG CB3000 condenser. “It's the only drum you'll hear on the recording,” Harvey says. “Lynda uses the Duallist pedal, most often used by metal drummers for superfast bass drum parts, to create a rolling train-beat sound. The main beater is made of wood with a shaker attached, and the second beater is made of felt so it creates a kind of ‘ghost' beat.”
Harvey and Parker like to cut their basic tracks together in the same room (he keeps about 90 percent of what he's done on the first take). “We record the track as many times as we need to until we're happy with the feel of her suitcase and rhythm guitar and of our interaction,” explains Harvey. The close proximity and visual contact helps them keep their recorded performances tight.
An AKG C3000 going through one of the Mbox's mic preamps is the recording chain of choice when Parker overdubs her lead vocals or her 1935 Gibson tenor guitar. “I love those Focusrite Class A microphone preamps,” says Harvey. “They give a lot of bang for the buck.”
Harvey mixes the tracks down to Digidesign Pro Tools LE 7.0. Once the final tracks have been compiled, he masters the disc using BIAS Peak 4, and then loads that into Roxio Jam to author the CD-R to Redbook specs.
“The freedom that DIY studios provide artists with — to express themselves creatively at any time of the night or day without time limitations, financial constraints, or outside interference,” says Harvey, “is priceless!”
Home base: outer Los Angeles
Sequencer of choice: MOTU Digital Performer
Percussion: homemade suitcase bass drum